Eulogy’s guide to SIGGRAPH 2018

by Ben Brigden

16th August 2018

The Eulogy team is on the ground at SIGGRAPH – the world’s largest computer graphics, animation and immersive technologies conference – this week. This year’s event is in Vancouver, Canada, and we’re here providing PR support for our client Foundry.

In between the interviews, briefings and other commitments that make up our busy schedules, we’ve been soaking up the latest innovations in creative technology: the perfect opportunity to massage our ‘inner geek’.

We love media and technology at Eulogy, so it’s been a treat to see pioneering stuff from the likes of Foundry, Epic Games, Google and Microsoft. From ground-breaking developments in film production, to the latest developments in gaming and immersive experiences, SIGGRAPH is a treasure-trove of the wildest, most magical tech on the planet.

Foundry All-Stars showcase

Foundry kicked off SIGGRAPH with a bang. Hundreds of jet-lagged visual effects (VFX) aficionados descended on the legendary Vogue Theatre to celebrate the defining moments for VFX in 2018.

Presenters from the likes of Pixar, Weta Digital, MPC and Digital Domain shared their tricks and techniques for pulling off the visual wizardry blowing away audiences around the world.

Highlights included a breakdown of how Digital Domain used motion sensors and artificial intelligence to build the hyper-real face of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War­—drawing on the real facial movements of actor Josh Brolin.

And we were left dumbstruck at tales of how MPC managed to shoot and complete post-production for Apple’s recent iPhone X ‘Unlock’ advert in just two weeks. VFX on steroids!

Foundry also featured a special spotlight series on women in technology, with keynote presentations from Janelle Crowshaw Ralla (Marvel Studios), Kelsey Hurley (Walt Disney Animation Studios) and Renee Tam (Pixar).

It was inspiring to hear the stories of these immensely talented young women, who are carving out successful careers in what was traditionally a male-dominated industry.

Disney’s first ever VR short

Walt Disney Animation Studios has leapt into the creative world of virtual reality with its first ever VR short film, Cycles, which premiered at SIGGRAPH. The film, directed by Disney Animation artist Jeff Gipson, looks at the true meaning of creating a home – inspired by Gipson’s own childhood – with the aim of inspiring people to understand the emotional weight of immersive storytelling.

More than 50 people collaborated on Cycles, using a mix of Quill VR painting techniques and motion capture to generate the 3D characters for the film. The premiere follows a series of other VR projects by major studios including Pixar and Lucasfilm’s ILM.

We’ve still some way to go before VR becomes truly mainstream, but with industry heavyweights making inroads into the realms of immersive content, consumer adoption may accelerate sooner than we thought.

Mo-cap using just an iPhone

Real-time rendering, or the production of computer graphics in real time, is trending at this year’s show. Countless talks and demonstrations have been dedicated to this blossoming field, with Real-Time Live! the crowd pleaser so far.

From mobile games to virtual and augmented reality, artists came together to share their methods for producing jaw-dropping real-time graphics. The presentations were entered into a competition and this year’s winner was Kite & Lightning.

Using off-the-shelf technology such as an iPhone 10 and a $40 gaming helmet, the team developed a facial capture rig capable of producing incredible real-time rendered CG characters, when plugged into the Unreal gaming engine.

With all the amazing tech on display at SIGGRAPH, it was cool to see something resembling a school science project making such a huge impact.

Robots with creepy eyebrows

And finally, say hello to your future: robots that can actually imitate human emotions. Japanese designer Takayuki Todo demoed his Simulative Emotional Expression Robot (or SEER) at SIGGRAPH, with dramatic and, quite frankly, terrifying results.

The robot is a humanoid head and neck that responds to the nearest person by making eye contact and imitating their expression. A built-in camera recognises and tracks the features of your face in real-time and copies the movement of the viewers’ eyebrows, eyelids and the position of their head.

It’s creepy, but you can’t help but feel empathy for SEER as it mirrors your emotions.